With the festive season now in full swing, most of us will be knee-deep in fairy lights, candy canes and wrapping paper, feverishly preparing for the big day with family and friends. While it's touted as one of the happiest times of the year, Christmas can be a difficult time too. The pressure we put on ourselves to have the perfect Christmas as well as all the extra time we have for excessive self-reflection can end up leaving us feeling like we have more in common with the Grinch then Mrs Claus.
While it may feel like a cliche, fostering an attitude of gratitude has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to improve mental health and general wellbeing. So, if you're planning to self-gift this year, forget the designer handbag and give yourself the gift of gratitude instead. Here are our top five reasons why.
1. It's just as good as a pay rise
No need to suck up to your boss or put in those extra hours at the office, a regular gratitude practice has been proven to improve general happiness levels by 10% which is the equivalent of having your pay cheque double.
2. The benefits are instant
Gratitude is an instant mood shifter and it's the quickest way to stabilise feelings and reconnect with ourselves. No matter how bad a situation might feel in a given moment, gratitude will put things in perspective and help shift your focus.
3. You'll be great in a crisis
When we practice gratitude regularly, our brains become hardwired to seek out things to be grateful for even when we're not consciously practising. This can be of great benefit in a difficult situation because you'll be more resilient and better equipped to look at things in a more balanced way.
4. Your health will thank you for it
Gratitude doesn't just benefit the mind, it does wonders for the body too. A regular practice has been associated with higher energy levels, improved kidney function, a stronger immune system, reduced blood-pressure and lower levels of stress-hormones in the body.
5. You'll be much better company
The more energy we give something, the bigger it becomes. If you have a bad experience and really focus in on all the things that were bad about it, you'll feel worse. By focusing on gratitude, the bad experience still exists but it becomes more manageable because now we've got some perspective and it's no longer at the forefront of our mind impacting on the rest of our day.
BY Sinead Van Kampen